Attachment Therapy Activities

Posted by admin on June 24, 2013

Today, I want to talk about attachment therapy, also referred to as Theraplay by many professionals. These therapy sessions are meant to be touch oriented, fast paced, spontaneous at times with the therapist/parent having in mind the activities for the day. The activities should be fun, calm, and nurturing. 

During a session NEVER scold your child if they get overly excited or out of control. If that happens, you need to refocus the session in to a calming exercise, like rocking.

The point of these sessions is to help your child attach in a fun, playful, non-confronting way.  These things are things many of us would do with a biological child.  Children with tough starts do not always get the joy of sharing these fun games with their birth family, so our job as adoptive parents is to help recreate the attachment cycle that was missed out on for our children as infants and toddlers.

The Scene/Supplies:

First, you want to set up a blanket on the floor with a bunch of pillows around for comfort and for some of the exercises.  A bean bag is a great thing as well because it will give the children a "special" seat.
You might want to get a small plastic container to hold the supplies. It's great to be able to grab a box and get to work.

The main things you will need are:
A large throw blanket, 4-5 pillows, lotion, cotton balls, feathers, stickers, bubbles, play-doh, powder, a baby blanket, small stuffed toy, comb/brush, construction paper, crayons, yarn/toiletpaper/streamers and snacks that kids like gummies, gold fish, M&M's, Skittles, etc. 

Popcorn/Jellybeans:  When we first get into therapy we need to take our shoes off.  So we sniff the air and we smell popcorn or jelly beans.  Then we start to hunt around the feet to see if that is where the smell is coming from.  Then we take off the shoes and socks to find popcorn/jelly beans.  Then we pretend to eat the food/tickle her feet.  

Lotion on our Boo-Boos:  Next we ask if she has any boo-boos/freckles/etc. we need to look at.  And we put lotion on the “boo-boo” (as long as it wouldn’t hurt her).  

Climbing Up The Mountain/Childs Name:  Next we rub a TON of lotion on our hands, and take her arm into our grip, we then use our hands wrapped around her arm to “climb the mountain”.  We sing a little song… “I’m climbing up the mountain, I’m climbing up the mountain, I’m climbing up, and climbing up, and climbing up the mountain”.   Then at the top of the mountain (arm pit) we loose our grip and sliiiiiiiiiide down and ask her to catch us and then we boom and thrash around.  

Taco Girl:  She lays in the blanket aka taco shell.  Then we put all of the toppings with different sounds for each.  Hamburger, lettuce, tomato, cheese, sour cream, salsa, then we wrap her up in the blanket.  Next, we pretend to “eat” the taco.  Tickling and saying, “this is one very yummy taco” the whole time.  

Twinkle Twinkle:  Since our Taco Girl is already laying in the blanket, one adult grabs the corners on their end, the other adult grabs the corners on their end, we lift her up and sing, “Twinkle, twinkle, little star WHAT A SPECIAL GIRL YOU ARE, up above the world so high, like a diamond in the sky, twinkle, twinkle, little star, what a special girl you are”.  

Weather Report:  This is done in therapy with her shirt on, but at home, we do it shirt off, w/ lotion for her back.  She sits facing away, and you sit behind her facing her back.  Then, you basically draw out the weather on her back.  Tickling, swishing, circling along the way.  “Right now it is dark (hands down back) and there is a moon in the sky (draw the moon) there are also lots of twinkling stars (dot out the stars), and some clouds too (clasp fingers together and blot clouds into the sky), OH LOOK, the sun is rising (draw the sun around the bottom of her back like it would be on the horizon, then it rising into the sky)  and the wind is blowing (breeze fingers left and right across her back).  You can get fun and creative with it.

Mirror:  Mirror is pretty simple, one of you is the person, the other is the mirror, and you mimic the person’s actions.  Do funny faces, wave hands, etc.  Personally, I love to do the “I love you” where I point to my eyes, make a heart, and point to her.  

Basketball:  Get a little stuffed toy/beanie baby and put it on your head, then she makes a basket ball hoop w/ her arms.  Then you try and bend your head down to make the toy fall into the hoop.  

Hide the Cotton:  Take five cotton balls and have your child hide them on herself.  Then you try and find them while making funny actions in the process.  I love to look in her ears, at her belly button, in her mouth, up her nose… etc.  

Cotton Ball Hockey:  Take a standard sized pillow, and each of you hold one end.  Then you put a cotton ball in the middle and blow it to knock it off.  You do this back and forth to try and score points.  

Push and Pull:  This is where you sit on the floor, knees bent in front, and she holds your hands and pushes you back, while she lands on your shins and you can lift her in the air or just rock forward and put her feet back on the floor.  Another variation could be lifting her on your feet like an “airplane” zooming in the sky.  

What's That?: In this activity, you need a feather, cotton ball, and maybe one other soft item. Then you have the child close their eyes, and you touch them with the item, and they guess what it was that you used to touch them with.

Lotion Spots: For this you have a dab of lotion, the child closes their eyes, and you put the lotion on them. Then you tap around to "fake" them out. Before they open their eyes, they guess where the lotion is on their body.

Drum Copy: For this you need a drum, or a plastic bowl will work. You tap a tune, then the child copies you. You can trade off with the child. It really gets you in-sync with one another.

Lullaby: Parent cradles child in arms in such a way that eye contact is fully maintained. Parent sings lullaby to child, inserting, wherever possible, child's name and descriptions of his or her features. Example: "Twinkle, twinkle little star, what a lovely boy you are. Nice brown hair and soft, soft cheeks. Big brown eyes from which you peek. Twinkle, twinkle little star. What a lovely boy you are."

Peek-a-boo: With hands, feet, towel, blanket, hood of coat, behind pillow or door.
Where's the Baby?: Where you have the child pretend they are in your belly and cover them with a blanket. You can get descriptive too. 

This little piggy went to market.

What Will Happen When I Push This Button?: Parent gently presses nose, ear, toe and "beeps," "honks," etc.

"Pop" Cheeks: Parent fills own cheeks with air and guides child's hands to push gently on parent's cheeks with fingers to pop out the air, encourage child to fill up cheeks and parent pops. Toes can also be used to pop cheeks.

Patty-Cake: Played with hands or feet!

Various experiences with touch and textures: Lotioning, making hand or foot prints in powder, pressing hands or feet into play dough or shaving cream, baby oil for back rub with the child facing you. Be aware of possible sensitivities to odors. You can put lotion on the child's feet/hands and then sprinkle powder on it. Then have them stamp their feet or hands onto a piece of construction paper. 

Find The Sicker: Parent puts sticker on own nose and helps child pull it off, can do on other areas (watch out for hair).

Blow The Cotton Ball: Parent puts cotton ball on nose with a dab of lotion, child blows it off.

Pillow Tower:  Place on pillow and have you child stand on it.  Then cheer for them keeping their balance (with assistance if needed).  Next, have them step off and you will add another pillow.  You keep repeating this and having the child step on them until you get about 4 or 5 pillows high.

Belly Balance:  After you have those pillows in the "Pillow Tower" exercise stacked up to 4 or 5, have the child lay on the top pillow on their stomach, and then hold their hands while you pretend they are flying like a bird, airplane, etc.

Bubbles: Blow bubbles in front of child and help him pop with fingers or toes.  You can also have the child alternate and wait their turn as you switch back and forth popping the bubbles.  

Lotion Pass: The Parent puts lotion on nose, passes to child's cheek, helps child pass it back to parent's forehead, rubs lotion on child.

Comb Hair: With child facing you, commenting on special color, texture, etc.

Tower of hands: Put lotion on parent's and child's hands and make a hand stack, alternating slippery hands. Move from bottom to top and top to bottom.

How Long Are You?:  You measure the child out with yarn, toilet paper, party streamers, to do this, hold the "string" up to each body part, legs, arms, face, feet, hands full length of their body and tear off a section for each body part.    Then you can have them guess which pieces match to which body part!

Any song or rhyme paired with movement: such as dancing, bouncing, rocking, moving limbs, finger plays. Personalized wording, as in Twinkle above, is preferred. Examples: Rock a bye baby, Patty cake, Itsy bitsy spider, Ride a horsie, The wheels on the bus, Rub a dub dub, I'm gonna get you.

Snack Time:  Each therapy session we have a snack.  Favorites are Goldfish, Fruit Loops, and Fruit Gummies.   Mom needs to feed, and then child can feed mom too.  Then we pretend to be an animal or thing.  For Goldfish, you could be a whale, or dolphin… and when you want another bite, you make the sound that animal makes.  For Fruit Loops, you can be any animal, but a bird is fun.  I hold her in my arms and ask if the little birdie wants a snack.  She chirps.  I feed her the various flavors and describe them as fruits.  “Here comes a cherry little birdie”, “Chirp, chirp”  “Here comes a blueberry”, “Chirp, chirp”, “Here comes a lemon, lime, orange grape” etc.   

I also like to pretend I am picking the gummies from a fruit tree and feeding them to my baby.  So I will say, “Oh a patch of strawberries, I bet my baby likes strawberries” she will then cry and shake her head while I feed her.  Repeat for every type of fruit the gummy represents. 

** One new thing we've been doing as we work on self-esteem, is I have her tell me one thing she loves about herself before the next bite. **

Shoe Race:  At the end of therapy, the therapist and I do a sock and shoe race and see who can get the shoe and sock on the fastest. 

I promise to add more as we learn more!
I am not a trained professional, but I am a mom that does these exercises (interchanged) sometimes daily with my children.

If you would like to watch videos of several of these exercises, feel free to click here and here.

- Christie Q (who blogs at Quacken Baby)

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